If you have a problem, fix it. But train yourself not to worry, worry fixes nothing. - Ernest Hemingway

Sunday, 31 January 2016

An Area of Darkness

A second-year college student from Kamduni, a hamlet near Kolkata, was returning home after taking an exam in the city. As she got off a bus and walked towards her village along a broken road through a drizzle, she must have been hungry and looking forward to her meal. But she never had another meal. Nine men forced her into a closed factory shed, gang-raped and murdered her. The level of brutality they exhibited was unthinkable even in Bengal where people’s sensitivity had been blunted by hearing the words “gang rape” as often as “road accidents”.
Personally, I remember I couldn’t sleep that night. When Aparajita’s (that is how she’s known) body was discovered later, she didn’t have a thread on her person and her legs had been torn apart up to her navel and her throat slit. Women are often targets of violence in India, but such violent disrespect to a woman’s body is seen but rarely. This instance of savagery – barely nine months after the Nirbhaya case – was another devastating blow to the nation’s collective conscience still grappling with the aftershock of the 2012 Delhi gang-rape.
Two of the nine men had bought goat meat the same morning and the nine were making merry at the closed factory shed, naturally accompanied by liquor. In all likelihood, they thought that a woman’s flesh would complete their revelry. To Aparajita’s grave misfortune, they knew she would cross their path in that desolate afternoon.
If I may digress a little, the present Trinamool Congress (TMC) government in West Bengal is of the goons, for the goons, by the goons. The rulers, having failed to create jobs and opportunities, have carefully cultivated a core constituency of criminals whose main purpose is to terrorise voters and ensure TMC victory in every election.
In return,
<> The hooligans get doles from the government in the guise of financial help to clubs for “promoting sports”.
<> They also corner all the petty sources of income like driving (often unlicensed) auto-rickshaws to setting up permanent stalls on pavements.
<> The more hard-core criminals, who are invariably connected to bigger fish in the ruling party, force people to buy over-priced, sub-standard building materials from their “syndicates”.
<> Or just extort money from ordinary citizens.
Like their predecessors, the Left Front – TMC too has adopted every criminal of the state. Whenever there is an incident of rape or other heinous crime by members / supporters of the party, the chief minister goes out of her way and routinely declares them as সাজানো ঘটনা or concocted stories even before the police start an investigation.
At least some of the nine criminals of Kamduni too had links with the ruling party and I am coming to that in a moment. However, given the public outcry, the chief minister couldn’t wish away the Kamduni incident and had to visit the victim’s family after 10 days. As is her wont, she grandiosely announced that a charge-sheet would be filed in the case in 15 days and the criminals sentenced within a month. However when some village girls, Aparajita’s friends, tried to ask the CM some questions, she refused to listen and seething with anger, called them “Maoists”. The arrogant lady didn’t realise that she had only managed to steel the resolve of the village to fight for justice.
Thereafter, the state government, the ruling party, and the police began a combined effort to dilute the case and buy witnesses. They threatened witnesses continuously, offered bribes in the shape of government jobs and even lured local boys with promise to induct them into leading Kolkata football clubs, and organised a phoney parallel group to hijack the people’s movement. Some succumbed to fear, some sold themselves, including the victim’s brother who – if my memory serves me right – accepted a government job after holding out for quite some time.
The West Bengal Police, the top echelons of which are a carefully selected bunch of plasticine men, who lie through their teeth on television to blatantly deny what the same TV channels showed the previous evening, who take their shoes off to serve sweets at Kali Puja in the CM’s home, who trail the CM like valets at public functions, tried their best to dilute the case. They even excluded two of the criminals, Rafiqul Islam and Noor Ali, from the first charge-sheet.
Let’s remember that in Kamduni, like in any other small village, everyone knows everyone else. The criminals were all local people from nearby areas and everyone knew who they were. The spirited villagers, supported by some gutsy city-based activists like Meeratun Nahar, Bolan Gangopadhyaha, and Samir Aich continued their protests and couldn’t be cowed down from testifying at court. Under pressure, the case was transferred from a suburban court to Kolkata, where manipulation would be more difficult. Also, the police were forced to include the names of the two they had left out initially.
Last Friday (28/01/16), two years and seven months after 7 June 2013, a city court pronounced its verdict. Of the nine accused, one had died during the trial. Six people were found guilty of murder, rape, destruction of evidence etc. And two were acquitted for the spacious reason of “lack of evidence.”
I read three vernacular dailies on the following day: Ananda Bazar, Bartaman, and Ei Samay. Every one of them says the two acquitted, Rafiqul Islam and Noor Ali – incidentally they had been excluded in the initial charge sheet too – are known TMC workers. It would be insane to believe that Bengal police have the guts to file charge sheets against TMC workers without incontrovertible evidence. The question is, why didn’t they produce the evidence in court?
Two of Aparajita’s torturers are already free. The quantum of punishment for the rest is going to be announced today. But our wonderful, fair judicial system gives every opportunity to law-breakers to prove their innocence if they have deep pockets. Remember, Salman Khan’s father said that Salman had spent Rs.20-25 crores to prove his innocence? How much did Ms Jayalalitha spend? TMC today may lack every vestige of honesty and dignity, but they have no dearth of funds. So Gentle Reader, it is too early to hope that the six remaining rapists and murderers will ever pay for their sins.
Why am I writing this?
Because I believe if we wish to move to a more civilized West Bengal or Tamil Nadu or Kerala or Chattisgarh or India in general, we the people must stop the corrupt self-serving politicians who are destroying the country. Information, and knowledge build consciousness and only consciousness can create the deluge of social forces that can throw away corrupt governments and politicians. It happened in 1977. It happened in Bengal towards the end of the thirty-four-year-old rule of the Left. It happened again in 2014 when people were disgusted with the Congress-led UPA 2 government seeped in corruption.
If the nine crore people of West Bengal rise as a body, the TMC goons won’t have a place to hide, just as the CPM had no place to hide during the last State Assembly Election. It matters little who comes next. Removal of TMC is a precondition for the survival of West Bengal today.
If you agree that knowledge is power and if you agree with my analysis, please spread this message around.
Kolkata / Saturday, 30 January 2016

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